The medical detoxification process from heroin & opioid painkillers can be quite different than that of detox for those with alcohol addiction issues.

While addiction is addiction, withdrawal from one substance may not be the same as that of another.  While there are similarities between individuals withdrawing from alcohol and those withdrawing from heroin or opiates, there are also marked differences.While addiction is addiction, withdrawal from one substance may not be the same as that of another.  While there are similarities between individuals withdrawing from alcohol and those withdrawing from heroin or opiates, there are also marked differences.Alcohol enjoys a reputation as being a safe drug. People don’t associate it with the same negative images as heroin. Alcohol is legal and perhaps the most widely used drug in our society. It is so popular, that there is almost no stigma attached to consuming alcohol. Withdrawal from alcohol is common among heavy drinkers upon cessation of alcohol consumption. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include tremors, cravings, anxiety, insomnia, vivid dreams, agitation, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.  Severe symptoms, which can be life threatening include:

  • Delirium tremens (DTs) are significantly more serious than “the shakes.”  DT’s present within 2-4 days of the last drink and are characterized by disorientation, persistent visual and auditory hallucinations, agitation and tremulousness, and autonomic signs resulting from the activation of stress-related hormones.  5% of individuals who experience DT’s die from metabolic complications.
  • Seizures occur in up to 25% of alcoholics going through withdrawal.  They typically occur within 1 day of cessation of alcohol intake but can occur up to 5 days later.

In contrast to alcohol, heroin has a reputation for being a harmful drug to get involved with.  The media shows images of heroin addicts being homeless, dirty and strung out.  While alcohol is socially acceptable in most circles, most people consider heroin use to be hardcore and something to avoid.Individuals who use heroin regularly, develop a tolerance and increased amounts are needed to achieve the desired effects.  Immediate cessation can lead to withdrawal symptoms which typically start within 6 hours of the last dose and continue for up to 7 days.  In 2015, there were over 15,000 overdose deaths from heroin in the United States.  Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased sweating, tears, runny nose
  • Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting
  • Muscle spasms leading to headaches or backaches
  • Goose flesh, pupillary dilation, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety, irritability, dysphoria, disturbed sleep, increased cravings